Season of Darkness

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THE MORNING echo felt like the antecedent of an ominous experience when I suddenly awoke from bed. My Bushrod Island community felt like a hush echo of a disappointed period, for a life changing event had become visible that it was trying the patience of the residents with much concern.

“What time is it?” a voice behind me inquired, and turning to the table clock, I took in a deep breath and exhaled it with much strength and said, “It’s just 8:30.” I felt a little heavy in my legs and thought about events of last night.

“Still thinking about last night?” I smiled as Jennifer broke my thought.

“Yes,” I said, smiling, “why shouldn’t I?”

Jennifer was my wife of five years. With her question I silently asked myself again and again about events, tragic ones that had happened since our marriage.

“You will have to live with it.” That assurance was necessary but difficult. Last night, I witnessed the refusal of a young woman and her two children to join an ambulance that had been called to convey them to an Ebola treatment center. The woman, Dorothy Joe had refused for fear that once sent to the center, known as The Ebola Treatment Unit, she would be diagnosed as having been infected by the Ebola Virus, and would be quarantined and might possibly die, since in fact it had been reported that the disease had no cure.

I was a member of the local Ebola Awareness Taskforce, and intervened in her case, and despite her initial refusal, managed to see reason and transported for testing and supervision.

Though I was successful, I could not forget what Dorothy told me with reluctance, bothered on fear. “A sickness that does not have a cure,” she said, tears streaming down her face, “could mean survival might be just through chance.” Though I could reason with her comment, since what could not be cured just might be endured. But a disease without a cure could mean a sure way for infected persons to die. In the end she came through, along with her children and hope returned to her family.

The strange disease had come unexpected and I realized that unaware of what it was, it created misunderstanding simply because healthcare practioners claimed that there was no cure, which was the hard part. And to further confuse the situation was the alarming number of deaths by nurses.

The difficulty was to convince the community that though Ebola had no cure at its full blown stage, it nevertheless could be contained once detected from the beginning of its attack through isolation, testing and supervision.

“The Ebola virus comes with several symptoms,” I told her, “and so like headache, it can be treated, like vomiting, it can be treated and so you can’t wait till all come together to destroy your body.” That was reasonable enough argument to convince Dorothy to go along with her children. There was also a group of young men and women who insisted that while it was true that something was killing the people slowly, they did not think it was anything called Ebola doing the killing.

Examining events of last night brought fond memories of how effective I was in making the woman see reason to agree to be transported to a center for help. In my effort to ensure that many disbelieving the presence of the virus realize it was real hence taking preventive actions, the application of force was necessary.

“Do we have to force people to accept the reality of Ebola’s presence in the country?”

“You did not use force last night did you?”

“I didn’t”

“Why are you suggesting the use of force?”

“This is because of the slow understanding of the dangerous effect on Liberians.” I knew there was no force against Dorothy, but there were frequent reports of denial, along with threat of physical violence against health workers by relatives who made claims of their family dead.

True, I was also aware of the imposition of the state of emergency by the Liberian government which should indicate that as far as the fight against the deadly Ebola Virus was gaining momentum, it was extremely necessary to use some extra-ordinary measures against those who continued to deny it, and make collection of their dead dangerous.

I HAVE been involved in the Ebola Awareness Campaign for the last several months, and in those months several hundred bodies had been collected. I could not understand how far the virus could complete its population. It was beyond understanding which suggested to me that somehow there was someone who could have knowledge of the Ebola Virus beginning.

But who?

As a volunteer I hardly received any incentive which was not my major problem. I was willing to work for the community, outside Monrovia but I was not sure if I would live through the Ebola Scourge.

I had had sometime to examine my role, along with many other volunteers about our fate in the fight. What would happen just in case like many of the nurses and doctors who had become victims, I became a victim to the Ebola fight?

No, I was not a coward, and therefore sacrificing my life for my people could be a noble idea. But, I worried that just in case things did not go as expected, would I be remembered? Beads of perspiration formed on my forehead as I threw several questions and came up with probable answers and in the end I felt the need to continue as a volunteer in the fight against Ebola. After all many had been killed by the virus and there were many others who might possibly be killed also. What was so much special about my family?

With a young wife, and what I had anticipated as a bright prospect, the sudden appearance of the Ebola Virus was evidently a harbinger of death that could destroy my dream or might have apparently kill many a couple’s dream. Though I had not discussed the eventuality of any negative outcome with her, I knew that if it became true that I was infected, there was a high possibility of infecting my wife, and without question creating the condition for our destruction.

In my heart I prayed for the death of Ebola, and it was one of my mantras, as I joined other volunteers to fight against it since it was became evident that there was nowhere that I could run to for safety. To imagine of the end with a sense of hope was too numbing, to consider the least. I knew there was a God of creation somewhere in the heavens but whether he was interested in our condition to bring us some remedy I could not be sure.

For there had been apparent hopelessness on the part of religious men, since their past prayers and fasts had not helped to stamp out the situation.

I WOULD have to admit that Liberia was facing a difficult period in its existence and obviously a time of extreme crisis. It was also a period of agony where the government was in tatters in the face of the Ebola menace.

I could remember the lamentation of a writer, who said, when he was apparently faced with such gruesome realities in his day:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way— in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

As authorities cried in utter desolation, and several deputies would not respond to the invitation to return, after seeking what was described as refuge abroad, I could only place the period to those of what the English writer Charles Dickens penned that abundantly reflected on the current period. As I reflected on the realities that were too glaring to be ignored, I turned my attention to the radio that sat on my table announcing the horrors of the period.

“The number of deaths of victims of the deadly Ebola disease is rising,” the announcer said, “since last week Thursday, where the number stood 1550, latest information estimates more than three thousand Liberians have died so far.”

The announcer continued, “In Montserrado County, one hundred cases were reported and fifty were confirmed; in Margibi County…” and he went on to tell his audience the latest casualty figures of the Liberian Ebola dead.

My reaction was that of despondency. What was this thing called Ebola virus? Who made it? Thinking about the Ebola’s devastating effect put me in a state of anguish and I desperately wanted to seek refuse somewhere. But where? The pain of hopelessness surged through me with such devastating effect that I could only wonder in resignation. I could also not agree with some religious leaders who claimed that the current crisis was a form of punishment from God. I knew we had suffered long enough, for if the fourteen years of the recent civil-war, killing an estimated 250,000 people was not enough punishment inflicted by misguided politicians, then blaming God for the ravages of the Ebola virus was too premature and an attempt to escape reality. In the end I could only plead to the bearded old man above to let Ebola die naturally.

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